Book Club: A Torch Against The Night

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Author: Sabaa Tahir
ISBN: 9780008160357
RRP: $27.99

Sabaa Tahir captivated thousands worldwide with her debut An Ember In The Ashes in 2015, and was the runner up in the ‘Best Debut Goodreads Author 2015’ category of the Goodreads Choice Awards. We reviewed the book as a book club title when it released and I loved it, it was a very popular book club leaving some very excited readers awaiting the sequel which is finally being released this month.

The book arrived on my desk and I knew that I had to read it, and soon. Of late my reading has slowed, mainly because there is a lot going on around me which is cutting into my reading time. Not this time, I knew I had to MAKE time to read this one.

A Torch Against The Night picks up exactly where An Ember In The Ashes finishes, I was a little concerned that with 12 months and who knows how many books in between it would take a little bit of time to immerse myself back in the story and the world that Tahir built in An Ember In The Ashes. I had nothing to worry about, by the end of the first chapter I was right back at Blackcliff Academy with Elias, Laia and Helene.

I find it very difficult to review a sequel without spoilers of the first book, though not so much the actual book I’m reviewing. So please be aware if you haven’t read An Ember In The Ashes there may be some spoilers.

A Torch Against The Night follows Elias and Laia on their quest across the Empire to liberate Laia’s brother from the most infamous prison in the land.

The storytelling is crisp and original, completely captivating and still quite gruesome and graphic. A Torch Against The Night is quite brutal, like it’s predecessor, there is no shortage of carnage, fight scenes and blood.

The Empire is in turmoil, the new Emperor has yet to gain the faith and loyalty of the Gens families and his Blood Shrike finds her skin crawling just being near him.

Helene Aquilla finds her loyalty in question and is sent on a mission to prove herself, a mission even she is not sure she can accomplish.

Elias has become the most hunted and most wanted traitorous fugitive in the Empire but his training as a Mask will ensure he is well placed to avoid detection.

The narrative is written from three perspectives: Laia, Elias and Helene. All characters we know intimately from An Ember In The Ashes.

We need all three perspectives so that we can keep abreast of happenings across the Empire, because with first person narratives it’s hard to know what’s going on outside the range of your narrators.

A torch against the night

It seems there is a lot more to all we learned in Tahir’s engrossing debut and many of those questions are answered in A Torch Against The Night, though there are still many left to be answered in the final story of the trilogy…. which I am already eagerly anticipating and wishing it was here.

Over the last few years I have managed to lose trilogies along the way, mainly because there is so much going on in my reading life that they pass me by. I loved The Passage and Red Rising, I have the second book in each of those trilogies and am hoping to collect the final installments also but have yet to read the second books because they slid in under my radar. I refuse to let this happen this time, and I certainly won’t be missing the third book.

The pacing is perfect, with non-stop action and some exciting twists that I didn’t see coming. The body count is astronomically high and it’s enough to set many of the most loyal minds to questioning.

The story is cohesive and the world-building solid. This is a book that held me hostage start to finish and I can’t wait to find out what comes next.

I also look forward to hearing what our book club readers have to say.

Thanks to HarperCollins 10 of our lucky Beauty and Lace Club members are going to be reading A Torch Against The Night as well so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments below.

A Torch Against The Night is available now through HarperCollins, Angus and Robertson Bookworld. Booktopia and where good books are sold.

You can find Sabaa Tahir on her Website, Facebook and Twitter.

11 thoughts on “Book Club: A Torch Against The Night

  1. Michelle, Your reviews always make me want to read the book. haven’t read Sabaa Tahir before, so that’s an author on my to read list.

  2. I really enjoyed reading the first book in this series ‘An Ember in the Ashes’, was anxiously waiting to read the next book ‘A Torch Against the Night’ and was definitely not disappointed in it.
    It continues where the other one left off with Elias and Laia desperately trying to flee the city of Serra with the Martial soldiers hunting them – there is a huge bounty out for the capture of them. Laia needs to break into the Empire’s most secure and dangerous prison Kauf, which is a long way to the north, to rescue her brother Darin, who is being interrogated there by the cruel Warden. She doesn’t know whether Darin will still be alive if she does manage to get there. Helene who has been made the Empire’s Blood Strike and who was the best friend of Elias most of their lives is given the mission by the Emperor of hunting him down and if successful, bringing him back to Sabaa in chains, to torture and publicly execute him. There are many twists and turns, together with surprises and a lot of brutality. I do not want to say any more as I do not want to spoil the reading of this book for anyone.
    Sabaa Tahir is quite an amazing story teller and I found it very difficult to put this book down until I had finished it.
    I most definitely recommend ‘A Torch Against the Night’ and would like to thank HarperCollins Publishers and Michelle from Beauty and Lace for giving me the opportunity to read and review it.

  3. A Torch Against the Night, picks up right where An Ember In the Ashes left off. It builds on all the political intrigue, magic and brutal violence of the first book to continue the story of Laia and Elias as they flee Blackcliff Academy set on rescuing Laia’s imprisoned brother Darin, who is key to the Scholars survival. Darin represents a small but desperate hope that the treachery of the Empire can be overcome, and hope is a key theme that runs throughout the book… “As long as there is life, there is hope.”

    After the trials that made them both the Empire’s most wanted criminals, Laia and Elias’s rescue mission is an incredibly perilous one. They face impossible obstacles with sinister forces both human and otherworldly, working against them every step of the way. Not everyone who helps them makes it, and like the first book there is a lot of bloodshed and gore!!

    Elias’s former best friend and the current Blood Shrike, Helene Aquilles, has a much more dominant role in this book. It is she who has been tasked with hunting and bringing Elias and Laia to face the Emperor’s justice. In doing so Helene faces her own conflicts forced to choose between her love for Elias, her family and her loyalty to the Empire.

    Like An Ember in the Ashes, this book is told from Laia and Elias’ perspectives but to also understand what is happening within the Empire, Helene’s perspective has also been added. This adds more depth to the story as the extent of the political string pulling is revealed!!

    Overall, I think A Torch Against the Night is a strong and gritty sequel to An Ember in the Ashes. It continued to develop Laia and Elias’s story explaining some of the unanswered questions from the first book. It had plenty of heartbreak, betrayals and plot twists to keep you on your toes, and the characters were given lots of moral dilemmas to grapple with so you could appreciate the complexities of their personalities and the reasons for the choices they make.

    Once again Sabaa Tahir has given us a book to think about long after the last page! I look forward to the next exciting installment!!

  4. “A Torch Against the Night” is a really enjoyable fantasy novel. It isn’t groundbreaking, but it is very good.

    This is the second novel in a series; I hadn’t read the first. It was nevertheless easy to follow the plot, and the characters drew me in very quickly. I’m sure I would have enjoyed the novel a little more if I’d read the first – some of the big picture background, and the motivations of some characters, were a little fuzzy as they weren’t reiterated in detail here. Still, if for some reason you want to start with this book, you won’t have trouble grasping the critical information and getting interested.

    The plot follows the basic quest formula – a group of people looking for something or someone, and others either competing for the same thing or just plain trying to stop them. In this case, Laia and Elias are seeking Laia’s brother Darin. Laia and Darin are Scholars – this appears to be a racial definition, not one of education – and Darin holds knowledge that may help the oppressed Scholars break free of the corrupt Empire.

    Elias was formerly a soldier of the Empire, held in high regard. Now he’s a traitor, fleeing for his life and Laia’s. He wants to free the Empire from the bloodthirsty (and probably evil) Emperor Marcus; he wants to see justice and fairness for all, including the Scholars; and he wants to explore his growing love for Laia.

    Against them are arrayed every soldier of the Empire; the Commandant of those forces (who happens to be Elias’ mother); the Warden of the prison where Darin currently resides; the Emperor; and not least, Helene, now the Emperor’s Blood Shrike and still Elias’ friend – who nevertheless must use her intimate knowledge of him to hunt him down.

    I enjoyed this novel a great deal. Plot wise it isn’t groundbreaking, but the characterisation is extremely strong. There are many strong and vivid female characters, all of whom are vital to the plot and action – and who play a really active part in events. They are not the token women you sometimes see in fantasy novels. They get down and dirty and not much could happen without their involvement.

    The relationships and feelings were complex, a reality of life. I loved this aspect of the novel – it explored conflicts and complexities in relationships subtly but in far more detail than many novels.

    Fans of classic fantasy tropes will enjoy this – it brings freshness and depth to some familiar plot devices, and the characterisation is exceptional. Although, to be honest – if you can start with the first book in the series, do so!

  5. I was so disappointed at the end of An Ember in the Ashes, not because it was a bad read but because it ended, and there was still so much I wanted to know. What would happen next? What would happen between mother and son? And would the relationship that was developing between Elias and Laia develop?

    This sequel lived up to my expectations with further character development, expansion of the plot and delving more into the culture of the Empire.

    The weaving of characters interactions and emotions are powerful and realistic and at times a little disturbing! This book keeps you gripped from start to end with challenges (trials), rescues, mistakes, near misses and perhaps betrayal (I dont want to give anything away).

    I love the development of some of the minor characters from the first book particularly Helene whose influence on Elias was understated in the first book. She pays a much larger role and is worthy of the time allocated to her.

    Overall I really enjoyed this book and cant wait for the next book in the series!

  6. Thank you Beauty & Lace for the chance to read & review “A Torch Against The Night” by Sabaa Tahir.
    I was very excited to get this invite as I had been part of the book review panel for the first book in this series by Sabaa Tahir, called “An Ember In The Ashes”.
    “An Ember In The Ashes” is the first book, which told the story of a land called Serra where everything and everyone lives under Martial law. Laia is a scholar who had lost her Mum, Dad, and Sister Lis to a Martial raid when she was young, which left her living with her Brother Darin, and their Grandparents, that is until one fateful night, when another Martial raid sees her Grandparents murdered and her brother taken away by a Mask. Laia swears that she will do everything she can to try and rescue Darin from Blackcliff, where he was taken. “An Ember In The Ashes” takes us on the journey with Laia as she works as a servant for the Commandant and plots Darin’s rescue. It’s also where Laia meets Elias, the Commandant’s son, who is a Mask but detests Blackcliff’s way of life and is himself, planning on escaping. Together, they create a plan to escape Blackcliff and rescue Darin, who is now being held at Kauf, a prison where most patrons end up dead. “An Ember In The Ashes” leaves us deep in the tunnels under Blackcliff as we follow Laia and Elias and their quest for freedom.

    “A Torch Against The Night” starts exactly where the first book left off….Laia and Elias are in the tunnels under Blackcliff, on their way to freedom but the plan doesn’t go as intended and the pair have to improvise and Elias finds himself having to rely on his Mask traits to survive.
    As with the first book, I found this one hard to put down…and if it wasn’t for a migraine that stuck around for 5 days, I would’ve been finished a week ago.
    The story is written from different points of view, with chapters going from Laia to Elias to Helene. I enjoyed reading this way and found I got to know more of the personality of the character by being able to experience how they were thinking, what their weaknesses are, what their hopes are. The storyline flowed well and was full of action as Laia and Elias fight their way out of Serra, overcoming the Commandant’s sneakiness and the violence from the Masks.
    The journey to Kauf is riddled with all sorts of dangers from efrits, jinns, and other magical creatures, while the different environments and landscapes are hazardous. And the journey is made even harder by the action of the Commandant towards Elias just as Laia and him leave Serra. She ensures that she will win this fight. Elias in a constantly weakening state is living between reality and the ‘waiting place’ and Laia has to gather every bit of strength and self-confidence to place herself in danger to be able to save both of them.
    Helene, who was named Blood Shrike, has been sent on the mission to track down and capture Elias, to bring him back to Serra, where Marcus can have him beheaded in front of everyone. Helene is torn between wanting to do what is best for the Empire and wanting to protect her best friend, Elias.
    Their escape brings them into close contact with Keenan, Izzy, and Afya. Keenan being the guy from the Resistance who has fallen for Laia, but you always feel like there’s more to the story with him and this does unfold at the end. Izzy is the gorgeous servant girl that befriended Laia in Blackcliff. Her transformation from mousy, quiet girl to Joan-of-Arc-type girl is completed during this story…she is easily my favourite character. Afya is a Tribeswoman who presented Elias with a wooden coin the night of the ‘Moon Festival’ in the first book, which is a symbol of a favour owing. Elias makes good use of this favour and it’s only with the help of Afya and Elias’s Tribal Mum, Mamie Rila along with the Tribe Nur, that Elias, Laia, Keenan and Izzy manage to escape from Helene and the Masks at the Fall Gathering in Nur.
    There are many twists and surprises that occur throughout this story and I don’t want to mention them because it will ruin it for the readers to come. I will tell you that Elias and Laia make it to Kauf, where Darin is rescued. Helene has lost her Mum, Dad and Sister at the hand of the new Emperor, Marcus, as a way for him to control her and ensure her loyalty to him and the Empire. But believe me, it doesn’t go smoothly and there are many obstacles to overcome.
    And I will say…..Hurry up Sabaa Tahir and bring out the third book in this line…I am dying to know Helene’s choices, although I’m sure I know which way she’s heading. I want to know what happens to Darin….and Elias and Laia. So many questions?????

  7. After reading an Ember in the Ashes a year ago, I was really excited to be offered the opportunity to read the sequel. I read a quick summary of the first book before I started to refresh my memory but everything came back to me fairly quickly once I started new book.

    The format of a Torch against the night is the same as the first book. The chapters are written mainly from Elias and Laia but there are also chapters from Helene as well. The majority of the chapters are reasonably short which I find makes for easy reading, but also makes it harder to put down the book as I’m always thinking “just one more chapter”.

    Without wanting to give too much away about the storyline, it was amazingly complex and very well planned out. There are secrets that are uncovered that have been slowly built upon since the start of the first book, but for the most part we didn’t realise that. Many questions are answered throughout this book that were left unanswered at the end of the first book, and new questions arise, many of which are left open waiting to be answered in the third and final book.

    This story in this book perhaps delves a little more into the supernatural realm with stronger elements of magic than the first, but the main part of the story is still so human that for the most part it just seems a stretch of the imagination so is still relatable, despite often being very brutal. All the characters that survived the first book make appearances during this story, and a variety of different relationships are developed between them. Sadly, not all the characters survive this book.

    At the end. the only downside is now there will be inevitably another long wait for the third book! I will be definitely reading the third one as soon as possible!

  8. I loved reading “An Ember in the Ashes” so I couldn’t wait to start reading “A Torch Against the Night” by Sabaa. I picked up the book when it arrived and read it as fast as I could, it was truly amazing!
    The first part of the book is really good but then there is great build up and all of a sudden it’s like an intriguing roller coaster of emotions hits you. The tension gets pretty heavy in this book and found I just could not turn the pages fast enough.
    This book was certainly very interesting to read and not too confusing at all. I am extremely impressed with this book and how it can draw that raw emotion from me.
    I think personally think Sabaa Tahir has very much succeeded in writing a different and brilliant sequel. There are so many so many deceptions and twists. The book left me very emotional when I reached the last page. I highly recommend you to read reading “A Torch Against the Night” by Sabaa. This is such an appealing book that you will find very hard to put down from the first page you read.

  9. Last year I was lucky to be chosen to read Sabaa’s first novel ‘An Ember In The Ashes’. A novel which I thoroughly enjoyed and couldn’t wait to read the sequel. This year I was invited to read the sequel , ‘A Torch Against The Night’ . I wasn’t disappointed.
    I have to admit having read An Ember In The Ashes a year ago I wasn’t sure I remembered it well and found myself re reading the first one agin before I started a the sequel. I was wrong! The sequel picks up exactly where the first one left off and it was very easy to fit backing of that world,,
    I enjoyed the way the storey was too from three perspectives this time and felt I got to know the characters more and what they were thinking. Especially Helene.
    This one is just as action packed as the first if not more so. Tahoe also answers many of the questions that are left unanswered in the first novel and we are presented wth others that will no doubt be answered in the next.
    Once again I stress that this novel is definitely for the ‘older’ young adult reader.
    Congratulations Sabaar Tahir, on an excellent sequel! Can’t wait for the next instalment . Thank you Beauty and Lace for giving me the opportunity to read and review another great book,

  10. A Torch Against the Night, is the follow on to An Ember In the Ashes . A ll the political intrigue, magic and brutal violence to continue the story of Laia and Elias as they flee Blackcliff Academy of rescuing Laia’s imprisoned brother Darin, Darin represents a small but desperate hope that the treachery of the Empire can be overcome, and hope is a key theme that runs throughout the book…
    After the trials that made them both the Empire’s most wanted criminals, Laia and Elias’s rescue mission is a perilous one. They face impossible obstacles with sinister forces both human and otherworldly, working against them every step of the way. Not everyone who helps them makes it, and there is a lot of bloodshed and gore!
    Elias’s former best friend and the current Blood Shrike, Helene Aquilles, is much more dominant in this book. she’s been tasked with hunting and bringing Elias and Laia to face the Emperor’s justice. In doing so Helene faces her own conflicts to choose between her love for Elias, her family and her loyalty to the Empire.
    this book is told from Laia and Elias’ perspectives and also to understand what is happening within the Empire, Helene’s perspective has also been told in this book. which added more depth to the story as the extent of the political string is revealed!

  11. I have been awaiting this book with great anticipation ever since I read An Ember IN The Ashes last year, I quickly fell in love with the story then, and this was no different.

    Although the world of the Empire is brutal, it was wonderful to be immersed again in the tale of Elias and Laia again, and this time the story of Helene as well. I suppose that in Ember, Elias and Helene’s stories ran very similar, but this time they are on opposite sides so it was very important to have her perspective in the book as well and I found it melded the book together perfectly.

    So desperately wanting to know what happens next, I had to stop myself skipping forward a few lines here and there, not because any part I read was boring, but because I just wanted to devour the story so much!

    I don’t want to reveal the plot for those who have not read it, but the addition of certain “powers” and “beings” added to the book’s intrigue and again left me hungry for more, and thankfully Sabaa has left it open for another tale from the Empire, and I cannot wait for it to be written.

    Congratulations on another amazing book Sabaa Tahir and thank you so much Beauty and Lace for the opportunity to read it!

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